The Genius in the Design: Bernini, Borromini, and the Rivalry That Transformed Rome
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The rivalry between the brilliant seventeenth-century Italian architects Gianlorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini is the stuff of legend. Enormously talented and ambitious artists, they met as contemporaries in the building yards of St. Peter's in Rome, became the greatest architects of their era by designing some of the most beautiful buildings in the world, and ended their lives as bitter enemies. Engrossing and impeccably researched, full of dramatic tension and breathtaking insight, The Genius in the Design is the remarkable tale of how two extraordinary visionaries schemed and maneuvered to get the better of each other and, in the process, created the spectacular Roman cityscape of today.
the Renaissance, made the daring—and controversial—decision to scrap the old St. Peter’s completely and build a brand-new basilica. The reasons were as much pragmatic as spiritual. In addition to the church being unsalvageable in its present condition, the artist and historian Giorgio Vasari noted that Julius—the former Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, a man not known for his modesty—wanted a St. Peter’s that could house the massive and magnificent tomb that Michelangelo, the greatest sculptor of
at the entryway and an unusual curving ramp. The count’s brother, Cardinal Ulderico Carpegna, proved to be a more constant—and longer-lived—supporter. In 1644 he engaged Borromini to turn his talents to the altar at Sant’Anastasia, a church that stands not far from the Tiber near the bottom of the south side of the Palatine Hill. One of Rome’s first tituli, or parish churches, which Urban rebuilt when he became pope, Sant’Anastasia has a long history. A church was built on the site in the fourth
courtyard outside the sacristy, creating two small, shadowy caverns, one on top of the other, which pull the eye toward the center of the wall and disguise the ungainly angle where the sacristy and courtyard meet. He understood, perhaps better than most architects, how to camouflage a building’s faults. He also knew how to reuse materials in imaginative ways. During construction, four ancient columns had been uncovered, and it was determined that they would be appropriate for the stairway
dress is open at the neck, offering the slightest glimpse of the top of her breasts. Her hair, free of ornament, is pushed away from her face, as if she had not yet arranged it for the day, and an untidy braid is curled into a bun at the back of her head. Her sturdy but graceful neck is unadorned by jewelry. There’s a hint of concern in her face: Her brow is furrowed slightly, her large, well-spaced eyes are wide open and watchful, and her lips are pursed, as if she is about to speak. The entire
1592, six years before Bernini was born. He carved the bust from a portrait or death mask to fit into a monument to Santoni that would be hung in Santa Prassede, a small church south of Santa Maria Maggiore. Even at such a young age, Bernini must have been well enough thought of to be given such a task, and he does not disappoint. He carved a solemn, severe-looking cleric, with a receding line of close-cropped hair and a shaggy beard that shares similarities with the goat’s coat on another piece